You Better Work! A Pop-Culture Tribute to Labor Day

Men at Work
©MGM/Courtesy Everett Collection

I remember my grandparents has one of those silly wood-carved signs in their garage that read, “I love work. I could watch it all day long.” (It’s a paraphrase of a Jerome K. Jerome quote.)

Of course, my grandparents worked their asses off, but they did it in well-paying manufacturing jobs that could actually support a family of six. With today’s lazy millennials, people “working” from home, wage stagnation and everyone getting replaced by algorithms, the American workforce just ain’t what it used to be BACK IN MY DAY.

So on this Labor Day weekend, we celebrate these things from BACK IN MY DAY that taught us the value of an old-fashioned hard-day’s work:

Working Girl (1989)

Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver and Melanie Griffith starred in director Mike Nichols’ rom-com about a secretary who usurps her boss’ position in the company while the boss is laid up with a broken leg. It’s a good movie, even if it hasn’t aged well. Today, most bosses wouldn’t stop working unless they were in a coma and the female vs. female workplace rivalry seems problematic. Plus, it implies the only way to advance your career is to sleep with Harrison Ford. I mean, it helps, but it is not a requirement.

Men at Work (1990)

Remember being stoked that Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez were going to be in the same movie together? Me too! But Men at Work turned out to be one of those movies in which the whole is weaker than the sum of its parts. We’ll always love Keith David as the supervisor with Vietnam flashbacks who makes a rough night for the pizza delivery guy.

RuPaul “Supermodel (You Better Work!)”

In 1993, if you had told me RuPaul would still be culturally relevant 30 years later, I totally would’ve tucked something somewhere. But RuPaul is a brilliant beacon of fabulosity, a true pop-culture icon and a survivor. Let us remember this ahead-of-its-time anthem for tirelessly catwalking supermodels everywhere. Sashay! Shantay!

The Seven Dwarfs

Heigh hoooooooooo! These guys LOVE working! I know it might seem like Snow White/Disney is exploiting them, but they’re really living the dream. As comedian Brad Williams says, “I mean, they have jobs, you know? They got good friends. They got a house. They like to protect [Snow White]. They’re diamond miners, so they’re rich. They’re self-made, wealthy.”

Office Space, Fight Club, American Beauty (1999)

Call in sick some time [cough cough] and just watch these three masterful films back-to-back-to-back. Maybe it was Y2K anxiety, but in 1999 our society was REALLY sick of working as office drones for middle managers in huge, faceless corporations.

Loverboy, “Working for the Weekend” (1981)

“You want a piece of my heart/You better start from the start.” This song’s chorus is like a battle cry for the blue-collar worker. But on further analysis, this song by Canadian rock band Loverboy has very little to do with actual work, but happy Labour Day, eh?


Reminds me of one of the all-time great performances by Chris Farley and a truly magnificent guest spot for Patrick Swayze on SNL: